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The due process of love

  A Northern gannet at the bird colony of Helgoland, North Sea, 2002. Photograph by Michael Haferkamp

A Northern gannet at the bird colony of Helgoland, North Sea, 2002. Photograph by Michael Haferkamp

Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes a poignant story in The New York Times about Nigel, a gannet, a type of seabird, who fell in love with a decoy bird placed on New Zealand’s Mana Island for the very purpose of attracting many of his kind. But he loved only one. He presented. He preened. He attempted to mate. But the stone-cold beauty remained unmoved. And, in the end, the island caretaker found him dead, which just about broke his heart.

It reminds you of Hans Christian Andersen’s story of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” and the little one-legged tin man whose love for a ballerina seals his doom. (Not a huge fan of Andersen’s downer stories and even less of a fan after learning that some scholars believe Charles Dickens based the creepy Uriah Heep in “David Copperfield” on him.) Anyway, the George Balanchine ballet version makes the soldier’s unrequited love more apparent.

Love is blind. But then, so are politics and selfishness. You knew that there would be a twit-storm from President Donald J. Trumpet after White House staff secretary Rob Porter lost his job in a domestic abuse scandal. (He is alleged to have abused two ex-wives, giving one a black eye and forcing the other to take out a restraining order.) You didn’t need a script writer for what followed. On and on, Trump railed about how unfair this was to – Porter. How these were “mere allegations.”  How there was no due process.

There are so many things wrong here that it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s attempt to break it down.

First, the question of due process. There certainly was a process. Porter filled out the requisite form to work for the government. The FBI investigated and reported the disturbing results to the White House almost a year ago. It was then up to the White House to judge the information, which went beyond mere allegations, and act accordingly. Domestic abuse – even the mere charge of it – is a serious situation. (It figures in my novel series “The Games Men Play,” where it is given the consideration it deserves.) It cannot be just dismissed.

But Trump is only concerned about due process when he comes to people whom he likes, who reflect some aspect of himself. For everyone else – from the five young men who were wrongly convicted of the rape of the Central Park jogger to Al Franken – he’s happy to be hanging judge and jury.

This is not surprising. What is surprising is how little leadership and business sense Trumpet exerts for someone who is a real estate mogul turned president of the United States. Surely, he must understand that in the business world, due process comes after the alleged transgressor is fired or forced to resign. I worked for a company in which if you plagiarized a story, drank or took drugs on the premises or fraternized with your subjects or the advertising department, you were gone – as in, escorted off the premises. Period.

There is the court of company policy and the court of public opinion and they exact a swifter form of justice than the law. Porter is free to sue the government for wrongful termination and the ex-wives for slander – for which he’d not only have to prove that what they said wasn’t true but that they said what they did with malicious intent. (This is the so-called absent malice standard.) This is very hard to prove, and my guess is Porter won’t be suing anyone.

But why does Trump – Mr. Hard Charging Strongman – take such a passive-aggressive approach to the deathless crises that define his White House? Why didn’t he either say he wanted to keep Porter and the public be damned or dig into his background and, if he found him lacking, fire him and issue a statement against domestic violence?

Why does someone with such a bullish temperament always fail to take the bull by the horns?

Because a narcissist doesn’t have a strong ego. Paradoxically, the narcissist has a weak ego. Prick him, and the hot air spills out, deflating the ballooning self he loves most.